But fortunately, if the new model proposed by a small team of physicists from Sofia University in Bulgaria is accurate, it is still possible to tell them apart.
And by playing a lot with Einstein’s theory of general relativity, surfing and penetrating into it, it can be shown how the space-time background (time and space) in the universe can form not only deep gravitational pits where nothing escapes – it can also form impossible mountain peaks that cannot be climbed. And these glowing hills would fend off anything that approached them, which would lead to streams of particles and radiation that had no hope of turning back.
Aside from the obvious possibility that the Big Bang appears to be one of these “white holes”, nothing of the kind has ever been observed. Nevertheless, it remains an interesting concept for exploring the edges of one of the greatest theories in physics.
And in the 1930s a colleague of Einstein’s, Nathan Rosen, showed that there was nothing to say that the deeply curved space-time of a black hole could not connect to the steep tops of a white hole in order to form a sort of bridge.
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And in this corner of physics, our everyday predictions about distance and time go out the window, meaning that such a theoretical link could traverse vast swathes of the universe.
Under the right conditions, it might even be possible for matter to ride into this cosmic tube and exit the other end with its information more or less intact.
So to determine what this black hole might look like to observatories such as the Event Horizon Telescope, the Sophia University team developed a simplified model of the wormhole’s “throat” as a magnetized ring of liquid, and made various assumptions about how matter originated.
Particles caught in this furious storm will produce powerful electromagnetic fields that will roll and snap in predictable patterns, polarizing any light that is emitted from the hot material with a distinct signature. And it was the tracking of polarized radio waves that gave us the first stunning images of M87* in 2019, and Sagittarius A* earlier this year.
The hot edges of the wormhole turned out to be difficult to distinguish from the polarized light emitted from the disc of chaos surrounding the black hole.
By this logic, M87* could be a wormhole. In fact, wormholes could be lurking at the end of black holes everywhere, and we wouldn’t have an easy way to find out.
This does not mean that there is no way of knowing at all.
And if we put together an image of a candidate wormhole as seen indirectly through a decent gravitational lens, the subtle characteristics that distinguish wormholes from black holes might become apparent.
This would require a properly placed mass between us and the wormhole to distort its light enough to magnify the small differences, of course, but it would at least give us a way to detect dark spots of space that have a back exit.
Another medium also requires a good dose of wealth. And if we detect a wormhole at a perfect angle, the light traveling through its dividing entrance towards us will enhance its signature even further, giving us a clearer indication of a portal through the stars and beyond.
Further modeling could reveal other properties of light waves that help sort wormholes from the night sky without the need for a lens or ideal angles, a possibility that researchers are now turning their attention to.
Placing more constraints on the physics of wormholes could unveil new avenues for probing not only general relativity, but also the physics that describes the behavior of waves and particles.
The research has been published in Physical Review D.